Sexual Assault

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JEFFERSON CITY - After hearing story after story from people experiencing sexual assault, students from the University of Missouri decided to try and create preventative measures at an early age.

Chelsea Spence, the legislative director for the Associated Students of the University of Missouri, helped lead the way, nearly a year ago, in creating a bill to teach students about what sexual assault, violence and consent are.

Spence said many girls in her sorority have told her they wished they knew where the “line” was when it came to sexual assault.

“I wish I knew in high school that the only way to sexual assault someone wasn’t rape,” Spence’s friends told her.

Spence, along with others in ASUM, helped write a bill to require public schools that already teach sexual education, to also talk about sexual harassment, violence and consent. Missouri lawmakers will talk about this bill Tuesday in a hearing at 5 p.m.

“There’s a lot of different kinds of sexual harassment and assault that we just aren’t educating our high school-aged students on or even college-aged,” Spence said.

Currently, schools that teach sexual education are required to teach students eight guidelines including topics like abstinence, sexually transmitted diseases and the dangers of sexual predators. The bill lawmakers are hearing Tuesday would add another guideline for schools to teach what consent, sexual violence and harassment mean.

The bill defines these three terms:

  • Sexual Violence:  Causing or attempting to cause another to engage involuntarily in any sexual act by force, threat of force, duress, or without that person’s consent.

  • Sexual Harassment: uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature, especially by a person in authority toward a subordinate.

  • Consent: A freely given agreement to the conduct at issue by a competent person. An expression of lack of consent through words or conduct means there is no consent. Lack of verbal or physical resistance or submission resulting from the use of force, threat of force, or placing another person in fear does not constitute consent. A current or previous dating or social or sexual relationship by itself or the manner of dress of the person involved with the accused in the conduct at issue shall not constitute consent.

The Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence said it has always supported comprehensive violence prevention education.

“Beginning to have these conversations early and often is really one of the best ways that we can prevent sexual harassment, sexual violence of any kind, from happening,” Matthew Huffman, the public affairs director for MCADSV, said.

“For anyone who does experience sexual violence, this can be a way of reinforcing that it wasn’t anyone’s fault, no one could have done anything on their own to prevent it,” Huffman said.

The bill has garnered bipartisan support from more than 20 House lawmakers.

The most recent additional guideline to the statute about sexual education was back in 2015. It required schools to teach students about the consequences of inappropriate text messages. The proposed bill would add the new education requirements as a ninth guideline to the statute.